• Barron Martins

India Extends Nationwide Lockdown Through May 3, Modi Says.

India has extended its nationwide virus lockdown of 1.3 billion citizens until May 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the nation on Tuesday.

“Social distancing and the lockdown has had a great benefit for the nation,” Modi said in his fourth speech since infections began ticking up sharply in mid-March. “From the economic point of view the cost has been great. We have to pay a high price. but compared to the lives of Indians there can be no comparison.”

Regions showing improvement in containing the virus spread up to April 20 may see some relaxation for essential activities, but that will also come with conditions, Modi said, noting the government will issue detailed guidelines on Wednesday.

“Please have compassion for the people who work with you and for you in your businesses and jobs -- please do not fire anyone,” Modi said

India has so far reported 10,453 infections and 358 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

INDIA INSIGHT: Lockdown Extended, Here Comes a 25% Contraction

Asia’s third-largest economy, which was on track to grow 5% -- its weakest expansion in more than a decade in the fiscal year that ended in March -- is now looking at a further downturn.

“A large part of informal and semi-formal labor in the urban sectors, especially SME segment would get displaced as the lockdown pain drags,” said Madhavi Arora, an economist with Edelweiss Securities Pvt. in Mumbai.

“The socio-economic cost of the same will possibly have much more protracted impact than the initial statistical assessments may reflect.”

As part of its lockdown and social distancing push India has asked people to stay indoors and suspended almost all transport services. Over the last month it has gradually widened its testing norms even though the country’s testing rates are still some of the lowest in the world. It has also diverted existing medical infrastructure to fighting the virus.

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